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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Questions for the Week


Insect Weed Control - An insect that is easily reared in the laboratory and looks like a promising bio-control agent for velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti), a major weed in corn, cotton, soybean,and sorghum crops which relies entirely on seed for reproduction and survival. Studies indicate that high populations of Niesthrea louisianica, the scentless plant bug, reduce the germinability of velvetleaf seed by 95 to 99 percent. N. louisianica significantly reduces capsule weight and seed weight, size and viability. Insect-infested plants produce an average of just 5 to 19 viable seeds, while plants with no bugs produce 650-1,047.

Sexually Confusing Insects - While the Oriental fruit moth is traditionally controlled by insecticides, researchers say using pheromones to disrupt its mating cycle is proving successful. The pest, Grapholita molesta, attacks nectarines and peaches. The new control program relies on male attractant pheromones that are dispensed from polyethylene tubes over a 90-day period. Scientists still have questions about how, exactly, the mating disruption works, but believe it inhibits males from locating females for mating.

The dispensers, which resemble garbage bag twist-ties, are looped around lateral branches in the top third of the tree canopy. Each application requires 400 dispensers per acre of trees. The average cost of this method is predicted to be slightly higher than that of insecticide programs, depending on factors such as number of applications needed and number of acres treated. In some cases, it can save growers money. Field trials in California have consistently resulted in less than 1 percent fruit damage at harvest, a level not significantly different from that achieved by standard insecticide spray programs. Another benefit is that beneficial insects are not disrupted by insecticide sprays.

A Sticky Potato Pest Recipe - Some potatoes are mustering their natural defenses against insect predation, thanks to the efforts of plant breeders and an indigenous pesticide.

Managing these pests costs potato growers some $120 million each year, and chemicals are becoming less effective because of increasing insect resistance.

Researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York., are working with Solanum berthaultii, a wild Bolivian potato. When touched, glandular hairs on the leaves of the plant release a clear chemical that immediately begins darkening and turning sticky, due to the enzyme polyphenol oxidase. This substance acts much like flypaper to trap the insects that feed on potatoes.

This defense works with varying success rates against the United States' most serious potato pest, the Colorado potato beetle, as well as against many other potato foes, according to the researchers' data. While the gluey substance isn't sticky enough to actually entrap Colorado potato beetles, it does help reduce or delay their growth, maturation, and reproductive capacity by encouraging them to feed less and rest more.

Fishy Grass Control - Grass carp are popular in the landscape market because they eat aquatic weeds. The grass carp strip ponds of all vegetation and eliminate the need for chemical weed control. However, if populations are not controlled, these fish can destroy plant species other fish require. For that reason, they are illegal in 28 states!

Killer Nematodes - 2 genera, of bug-eating nematodes Steinernema and Heterorhabditis, show promise. They occur naturally all over the world, are known to be destructive to hundreds of species of harmful insects and yet are not harmful to plants, humans, animals, birds or earthworms.

Nematodes prey on insects that live underground during some stage in their life cycles. They actually seek out their prey, entering through natural openings and releasing pathogenic bacteria into the blood. Typically, the insect dies within 48 hours. The nematodes breed inside their host, depositing eggs that produce another generation to seek out and destroy other hosts such as grubs, pillbug larvae, sod webworms, cutworms and mole crickets, to name a few.

The infective stage of the nematodes are formed in the body of the dead host insect, then leave the host and are able to persist in moist soil for months without infesting a host. They are highly resistant to chemicals and natural toxins in the soil. Their movement and search activity is optimal in moist, sandy soils. Persistence can be reduced in dry soils, during extreme temperatures and in the presence of toxic pesticides, pathogens and predators.

Nematodes are applied by simply adding them to water in a conventional spray system and applying them as a spray over the infested area. As the nematodes are highly resistant to most chemicals, a well-rinsed sprayer should be adequate. Post-treatment irrigation to prevent desiccation and facilitate movement into the soil is needed.

Fungal Death to Fire Ants - In Brazil, a fungus that for the first time killed fire ant nests may work in this country as well. This is the first introduction of a fungus into a fire ant nest with positive results. The fungus was isolated from a site in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso. Soil samples from an empty nest revealed that the soil was loaded with fungal spores. The fungus was taken from an area where it naturally occurs, cultured and introduced into uninfected fire ant nests. The fungus grew inside the nest and killed the ants.

For more biological and organic pest controls, see:


QUESTION: I would like to obtaining information about paper shell pecan trees. I want to plant 25 acres of trees and I need information about buying and planting pecans trees. The area I am going to plant will be near Kemp by Cedar Creek lake. Can you provide me with this information or tell me were to get it?

ANSWER: Everything you need to know is available at the following Plantanswers site:

Are you sure you want to plant 25 acres?? The problem is that it becomes a unit size issue. There is a point where you become too big to be economical. You will need a lot of equipment for 25 acres. However, the amount of equipment for these 25 acres would also handle 100 acres. However, 100 acres is too much for one man to handle. I would rather see you plant maybe one acre that you could adequately care for and do a good job with. The small guys who shell and retail their pecans do a lot better than the bigger orchards.

QUESTION: I presently have a 40-tree natural pecan grove that has produced well in the past. It is my intention to improve its production by growing and transplanting seedlings. However I have been searching for information about nut germination and the ideal conditions to do so. Is there any information that you could provide for me to review? Finding the seedlings at a reasonable price in this area is very expensive since they are all being sold by landscape nurseries. Is there a quality company that provides quality Choctaw pecan seedlings? Also, I would be interested in a good grafting technique.

ANSWER: The easiest way to grow seedling pecan trees is to place the nuts in the ground in December or January, and let Mother Nature do the job of stratification for you. Therefore, I would take Choctaw pecans, soak them in water for about 3 hours, occasionally stirring the water to keep oxygen in the water. Then dig a row and plant them about 2 to 4 inches deep. Space the nuts about 1 foot apart. Water them thoroughly and then forget about them until next spring. Be on the lookout for predators such as squirrels as they may try to dig the nuts out of the ground. If they become a problem, cover the row with hardware cloth to prevent the digging.

The nuts could also be placed in containers. However, the containers would need to be watered about every 3 to 4 weeks. Also the media needs to be well drained. I would use 3- gallon containers and put 3 to 4 nuts in each container.

Womack's Nursery in DeLeon, Texas (phone: 254-893-6497) sells Apache seedlings, 2 to 3 foot, for $3-4.

All you ever wanted to know about grafting is available at the following Plantanswers site:

QUESTION: Are poinsettia's poisonous to children and pet's? If so what would be the best way to keep cats away from the plants? Are cats attracted to these plants?

ANSWER: This is a previous Q&A to a similar question that can be found at this PLANTanswers web site:

It says:

Question: Is a poinsettia poisonous?

Answer: According to the Parkland Poison Control Information Center, the average person would have to eat 500 to 700 poinsettia leaves before they would have a serious problem. Of course, some people are more sensitive than others. So, one leaf may cause some digestive problems to a very sensitive person. Poinsettias are members of the euphorbia family and white, milky latex sap may cause eye and skin irritations in people sensitive to the sap. These plants are best classified as "possibly toxic" and not "poisonous".

In reference to your cat, I searched the web on plants toxic to animals and found this site:

It does not list poinsettia as being toxic. To keep the cat out of plants you don't want him in, perhaps you should grow some catnip as an alternative.

QUESTION: What is the best way to protect cactus plants such as cercus and tall euphorbias from winter weather, especially, when the plants are in pots?

ANSWER: Certainly the best protection would be to bring them inside to a well-lighted location or bring them into a heated greenhouse. However, realizing that this is not always possible, the plants must be protected from freezing. This can be achieved by moving the plants into a protected location,
such as against the south wall of a house. If the temperature is going to drop below freezing for any length of time, the plant should be covered with a cardboard box, blanket or other protecting material. A mechanic's light, a string of Christmas lights or something similar can be placed around the plants for additional protection. This PLANTanswers web site provides information on the care of Cactus and while your plants are actually succulents and not cactus, the article is still relevant:

QUESTION: I am a 7th grade student at Paragon Prep Middle School in Austin. We are currently doing a project on planting bulbs and comparing growth rates in different soils and climactic conditions. I need the scientific names (genus and species) for the following bulbs: 1. paperwhite narcissus 2. red onion 3. yellow onions

ANSWER: Your question is a good one because both the Narcissus and the Allium genuses contain many species. The paperwhite narcissus is Narcissus tazetta. All edible onions are Allium cepa with many named cultivars. For example one of the yellows is Allium cepa 'Grano 1015Y' which is the Texas Supersweet Onion. A red would be Allium cepa 'Southpoint Red Globe'. Since I do not know what cultivars you are using for your project, you will have to supply that name. Allium cepa ( 'name').

QUESTION: I am looking for some information on growth patterns of Setcreasea pallida. I am trying to find whether this perennial grows better in the sunlight or shade, and the temperatures most suitable for growth. I have land that has both shade and sun spaces where I want to plant with this flower.

ANSWER: Purple Heart (Setcresia pallida) is a very versatile plant, growing in shade or sun. It loves hot weather and can exist with very little supplemental water. Like most plants, it looks better when happy and that means watering it when the leaves start to curl. This PLANTanswers web site has info about Purple Heart:

Purple Heart (sometimes called Purple Jew)-The plant that "de-uglied" South Central Texas during the horrid heat and drought of '96. Purple Heart is in the Genus Setcreasea which has 9 species of the spiderwort family melinaceae. Purple Heart was discovered in a window box at the Tampico, Mexico airport and named in the early 1950's by a Puerto Rican nurseryman. In 1955, the newcomer was described and given the scientific name Setcreasea purpurea but later redefined as a variety of Setcreasea pallida. Setcreaseas are more or less succulent, trailing, clambering, or erect with thick-ish roots and fleshy stems. The lavender to purple flowers are in terminal clusters, each partly enveloped by a pair of leaf bracts. Purple Heart is a native to dry and semi-desert parts of Mexico. It is trailer or creeper with the young parts of its shoots erect. In warmer parts of Texas, the plants never freeze so the planting can become overgrown and "snaky". In colder climates, the plant is root hardy -- the top freezes and is removed but it re-sprouts from the roots. It has the attractive purple shoots during the hottest, driest part of the summer. Gardeners who live in warmer climates can enjoy the same beauty from this plant by mowing it off or raking the tops away every winter. It is a beautiful purple plant which lives in shade or sun; with little or no water. It can be weeded (if bermuda grass dares invade its territory) with a 1/2 strength glyphosate (Roundup, Kleanup) spray, and has a pretty little bloom at the tip of each stem. Many have called this plant Purple Jew because it is in the Wandering Jew family, but we prefer the name Purple Heart.

QUESTION: I know exactly nothing about trees in general, especially pecan trees. I purchased a few acres next to my Dad's place in Woodville, Texas a few years ago. It came with 7 large and sickly looking pecan trees. I say "sickly" because they do not produce any pecans, are not bushy, were being choked out by thick underbrush and vines and have large trunks about 7 or 8 feet high which turn into several long spinally limbs. This leads me to believe they have been growing wild (without care) for several years. I am asking for some help in determining what is wrong with them. Do I prune them? Where do I start with getting these trees back in better shape so that one year I can see some pecans!

ANSWER: You are exactly right; the pecan trees were being CHOKED OUT by the surrounding vines, trees and vegetation. By cleaning out this underbrush, you have now given the trees a fighting chance. Pruning is not required per se to rejuvenate the trees. Simply remove low hanging limbs which are in the way, have broken, are weak, etc. The most important thing you need to do for the trees is feed them. They have essentially been starved for nutrition due to the intense competition around the tree. Nitrogen fertilizer is the main element the trees will need. Apply 1 pound of nitrogen fertilizer per 1 inch of trunk diameter in late March. Do this for each tree. Spread the fertilizer from the drip line of the tree out. Try to apply it ahead of a rains that will take it into the ground. Once you get the trees growing again, you may want to think about applying zinc fertilizer as well. The best means of application is with a foliar spray. However, they now sell a product called Pecan King chelated zinc, which can be applied to the ground. Keep the vegetation in check with low mowing during the growing season.

Once the trees are actively growing again in 2 to 3 years, you may want to think about pest management. Further information is available at the following Plantanswers site:

QUESTION: I have a question regarding earth worms. I am just re-taking a rental property back from tenants. They had 15 cats, 4rabbits, and 3 dogs in one small yard. I need to spray the yard for all the fleas and bacteria in the fecal matter. Someone has suggested Dursban. There happen to be a lot of earthworms and I am afraid this will kill them. Do you have any suggestions?

ANSWER: Malathion is used by worm producers to kill mites on the worms without damaging the worm population. The Malathion should give good control for the fleas and other pests in the soil. Malathion are insecticides and will not control bacteria in fecal matter -- I don't think that will be a problem. Many of the common insecticides do have some toxicity to earthworms; however toxicity effects are always temporary at best. Sevin probably has a higher toxicity to earthworms, but studies show that even where the most toxic insecticides are used, earthworm populations recover after several weeks. Dursban should be OK, as it tends to bind tightly to soil particles in the top inch of the soil profile. Beneficial nematodes are an "organic" option in sensitive environments; although results may not be as dramatic as many of the synthetic pesticides. For more information on safer flea control, see the factsheet posted at:

These products are ineffective, by the way, on bacteria and other microorganisms. Malathion is an insecticide and it will not control bacteria in fecal matter -- I don't think that will be a problem.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you knew if the umbrella tree is poisonous.

ANSWER: I'm not sure whicht specific tree you are referring to. The tree commonly known as Chinaberry (Melia azedarach) is sometimes called the Texas Umbrella Tree. If this is the tree you mean, then the answer is yes. See this web site:

which gives this information:

Family- Meliaceae

Plant Description- Deciduous tree; leaves alternate, 2-pinnately divided with toothed, pointed leaflets; flowers small but numerous in large terminal clusters, lilac-colored; fruit a yellowish, wrinkled drupe persisting through the winter.

Origin- Asia.

Distribution- Cultivated and naturalized.

Where Found- Weedy in disturbed areas; naturalized at edges of roads, in openings in forests and natural areas; in landscape used as an ornamental tree.

Mode Ingestion- Poisonous Part: Fruits and tea from leaves.

Symptoms- Stomach irritation, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, paralysis, irregular breathing and respiratory distress.

Toxic Principle- Tetranortriterpene neurotoxins; also possibly a saponin.

Severity- Toxic only if large quantities are eaten.

QUESTION: I recently heard a story about a flower that was different from most flowers. After it opened, it released a pungent odor instead of the usual pleasant fragrance, but only for a few hours. After that it closed up for about 33 years. Is there such a flower? If so, do you know what it is called? It just sounded interesting.

ANSWER: I can only assume that this is the Amorphophallus, the giant aroid from Sumatra. While it does take some years to reach flowering size, not sure whether it's 33 years. Homeowners can purchase related specimens under the name of "Voodoo Lily". Ron Diederman at the AtlantaBotanical Gardens has several specimens of the giant species. They are pollinated by flies.

QUESTION: We own a lawn sprinkler company in Dallas and each year I send out a newsletter to our custo. I try to include interesting and informative information. I have a couple of questions if you have time to answer or give me resources.

# 1) My customers say that when you try to determine the casue for plant stress, both indoor and outdoor, the common answer is either over or under watering. How do you decide which it is? Are there signs related ONLY to over water and ONLY under water?

ANSWER: Plant stress is caused by damage or malfunction of a life-sustaining system. Too much water causes root damage-root rot, which interferes with the uptake of nutrients and water. Because the uptake system is damaged and malfunctioning, the symptoms expressed by the plant are identical to those of a plant that has been externally deprived of nutrients and water. So, a root-rotting, drowning plant exhibits the very same symptoms as those of a drought-stricken, under-fertilized plant -- the top (foliage) of the plant only recognizes the fact that it is not receiving the life sustaining products it desperately needs. The death is the same and does not express the causal symptom. If someone has been watering REAL often, you naturally assume the plant is being over?watered; if someone has not been watering at all, you naturally assume the plant is dying of thirst. The best way to water plants is not to water the plant at all, but water the growing medium instead. Keep the growing medium (whether soil or potting mix) moist, BUT NEVER wet or dry. The best probe to use is your index finger stuck into the growing medium on a regular basis.

# 2) The new "fad" seems to be lawn aeration. Is it necessary and when, why and in what types of soil?

ANSWER: "Fad" is not the proper word; it should be "necessity" rather than fad! Most educators have been negligent in their insistence on the benefits of aeration. To prove it to yourself, check out the PLANTanswers sites furnished by Dr. Richard Duble which makes PLANTanswers the best source of turfgrass information on the World Wide Web. Use the "Find" function under "Edit" to search for aerate in sites: (Water Management in Turf, by Duble)
(the Fertilization section, by Duble)
(the Bermuda Grass section, by Duble)

Then, search:

and you will see just how important aeration really is for all aspects of turf culture and disease prevent.

If you use the computer at all, you know you can spend HOURS, and I have, searching the Internet only to be linked to other areas, and so on and so on.
Try surfing on over to this site:

and find EVERY horticulture page in EVERY land grant University in the U.S. and Canada for "lawn aeration". There you will find substantiation of Dr. Duble's information all over the world.

QUESTION: I'm currently visiting my mom and stepdad in Texas and we've been discussing WHY a tomato is considered a fruit. And, what's the difference between a fruit and a vegetable? I've searched the Web (and searched and searched) and you seem to be the experts!

ANSWER: You just weren't searching in the right place. Everything you need to know is located at the following Plantanswers site:

Basically the tomato is a vegetable because the U.S. Supreme Court said it was!!

QUESTION: We are evaluating whether to erect glass or plastic greenhouses to grow tomatoes. There is a very large economic advantage to go with plastic, however one question that nobody can answer relates to what "light" the tomatoes like. Do you know of any research that defines the light requirement parameters under which tomatoes grow best? Somebody posed the question "How come, when I look up through glass, I can see the clouds perfectly well, but when I look through plastic, it is all blurry?"

ANSWER: Tomatoes grow best a very high light intensity (10,000 to 12,000 foot candles). That is the typical light intensity at noon on a clear day on the Texas High Plains where the sun shines very brightly. Tomatoes must have high light intensity in the visible red (about 700 nanometers wave length) and blue range (about 400 nanometers wave length) to grow well and produce a heavy fruit load. A tomato leaf is light-saturated (as far as optimum intensity is concerned) at around 2,000 foot-candles. Because tomato leaves overlap, plants respond to high incident light intensity. Many lower and inner tomato leaves of trellised tomato plants that receive suboptimal light intensity are actually parasitic because they use more energy and photosynthate than they produce. Plastics suitable for greenhouse glazing should transmit over 90 percent of incidental sunlight in the range I mentioned above. The better grades contain ultra violent inhibitors which extend useful life to 2 or 3 seasons. Plastic film diffuses light rays, and objects viewed through plastic appear hazy even though the plastic film transmits most of the light. Glass glazing crystals are oriented in such a way that the images and colors come straight through to our eyes. I'm not a physicist, but I think I'm describing the phenomenon satisfactorily. To be certain that you are getting the correct quality of plastic for your greenhouse, buy it from a reputable greenhouse supply house.

--Dr. Roland Roberts, Retired Extension Horticulturist,
Lubbock, Texas

QUESTION: I have a half-dozen young pine trees (approximately 6 to 7 years old and approximately 15 to 16 feet tall). They are turning yellow, and then to brown. Excessive are needles falling to the ground leaving the trees barren. What could the problem be? Could the unusually "wet" weather be a contributing factor? What can I do to save my trees?

ANSWER: Dr. Mark Black - Extension Plant Pathologist, writes:

The problem is probably iron deficiency complicated by the excessive rains since mid-August. You didn't say what kind of pine tree this is, but from the symptoms, it is probably loblolly pine from East Texas. They typically thrive for a few years, then start yellowing and dropping needles as the roots get deeper into your alkaline soil in Somerset.

Options for other pine species are not ideal. Afghan pine in the San Antonio area is having severe problems with Diplodia canker, a fungal disease that kills branch tips and needles. Pinon pine from West Texas is slow growing, and is apparently also susceptible to Diplodia canker.

QUESTION: Some of my live oaks are splitting, either at a bifurcation or along the top surface of a large limb that is bending toward the ground. Is there something that I should place within the split or a treatment to arrest this process.

ANSWER: It sounds like the limbs are getting too large to be supported by the tree. The best way to prevent this problem would to reduce the length of the limbs. This is best done by cutting them back to a main branch. Do not just "top" the limbs in the middle of the branch. Over the years, some folks have gone to the trouble of propping up the limbs to prevent this breakage. However, I think it is best to shorten the limbs and/or remove narrow crotch angles to prevent this type of damage. Also, keep the trees in a healthy state with water and fertilizer.

QUESTION: What do you think of the over-the-counter termite bait stakes sold under the trade name Spectracide Terminate?

ANSWER: Here's an update on the progress and issues surrounding this product. Bottom line- There's not a whole lot of data to support product claims.

From The Washington Post:

A Legal Skirmish in a Larger War Against Termites
By John Schwartz
(Thursday, December 3, 1998; Page T10)

Any homeowner watching the hit movie "Antz" could
identify with the dread of the ant soldiers during the
battle with the termite horde. After all, they face the
potential of a similar attack in their own homes.

More than 600,000 U.S. homes each year suffer termite
damage; the $1.5 billion annual price tag is higher than
that caused by fires, storms and earthquakes combined,
according to the National Pest Control Association.

So when a St. Louis company offered a relatively
inexpensive do-it-yourself system for getting rid of the
critters last February, consumers snapped it up. United
Industries Corp. markets the Terminate home defense
system through nationwide home improvement chains
such as Home Depot, Lowe's and Wal-Mart. "Simply
place the bait stakes in the ground around your home and
Terminate does the work," ads promised.

Company ads and brochures claimed the system would
not only prevent infestation, it also could eliminate
active infestation and was just as effective as expensive
treatments by professional exterminators. And all for
less than $70, compared with hundreds or more for a
professional job!

Sound too good to be true? The Federal Trade
Commission and attorneys general from eight
states--including Maryland and Virginia--think so, and
have filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to
make the company rewrite its product claims. The other
states joining the suit are Florida, Georgia, Kentucky,
New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas.

"Just the thought of termites strikes fear in the hearts of
homeowners," said Jodie Bernstein, director of the
FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, when she
announced the agency action in October. Noting that the
insects can cause thousands of dollars' worth of damage
to homes, Bernstein said, "Consumers shouldn't be bitten
twice--once by termites and a second time by deceptive
claims about a termite bait system."

Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, announcing
his action against the company, said, "I don't want
Maryland consumers to get a false sense of security
when there's a chance they're being misled. We don't
want this company eating away at their pocketbooks
when it's possible that termites are still eating away at
their homes and they don't realize it."

The company said it would fight the FTC in court. "We
stand behind and support our products, label claims and
advertising," said Jim Olsen, director of the termite
products division for United Industries.

Fear of termites has been an important part of just about
every exterminator's marketing pitch. The Terminate
brochure is no exception, warning that "just because you
haven't seen termites doesn't mean your home isn't at risk
from their invisible threat. Because termites rarely come
to the surface of the wood they are eating, it is often
impossible to know if you have termites until severe
damage is done." Television ads for Terminate open
with a voice-over saying, "To you, it's your castle,"
followed by crunching, chewing sounds. "To millions of
termites, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet."

The ads close with a warning: "Before it's too late . . .

The case is pending, with no courtroom date set for a
hearing on the agency's request for a preliminary
injunction, said Dean C. Graybill, associate director for
service industry practices at the FTC's Bureau of
Consumer Protection. "They simply do not have
scientific support for those claims at the time they made
those claims," Graybill said.

Olsen of United disputed the FTC allegation. "All claims
made about the product are accurate and substantiated,"
he said, and based on filings reviewed by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency. "We believe this
product is a big win for homeowners, who have never
had a choice in this category before."

An EPA spokeswoman said that the agency's review was
focused more on safety than on efficacy, and not at all on
advertising claims. "The decision was that FTC would
take the lead" on that aspect of the case.

According to the FTC, the product appears to have little
effect on active infestation and is not a
set-it-and-forget-it system: It "requires substantial
monitoring and repurchase," Graybill said. The product
also is not effective against drywood termites or the
voracious species known as Formosan termites, the FTC

Some states have not allowed United to sell its product.
David Scott of Indiana's environmental agency said, "We
needed to see some efficacy data that would show that a
homeowner could go buy this stuff, follow the directions
and expect to be successful in controlling or repelling
termites. We have not been provided with that, at least
up to this point."

Some professional exterminators do use bait
systems--and one such system uses the same chemicals
found in Terminate, said Carl Falco of North Carolina's
Department of Agriculture and president of the national
Association of Structural Pest Control Regulatory
Officials. But the professional product holds itself out as
only part of a complete termite control system, does not
claim to totally eliminate termite colonies and calls for
regular reapplication. "Termite control is not as easy as
[Terminate's] brochures and the label and literature
imply," Falco said.
Bob Rosenberg agrees. Rosenberg, who heads
government affairs for the Dunloring, Va.-based National
Pest Control Association, said getting rid of termites
simply isn't a do-it-yourself job. His group represents
professional exterminators, so Rosenberg admitted that
his advice is "a little self-serving." But, he insisted,
"Killing bugs is not easy. Killing some bugs is easier
than others. Nothing's more difficult than killing termites
that I know."

The reason, Rosenberg said, is that termites are so good
at what they do. They hide beautifully, taking up
residence in the ground and inside walls. Most
professional exterminators set up a chemical barrier
around the foundation of the house, taking advantage of
the creatures' need to migrate back and forth between the
soil and the house.

Drywood termites require a different treatment: Many
exterminators enshroud houses in plastic tents for a
thorough fumigation.

Termite control is "the single job of bug eradication that
ought to be left to somebody who knows what they're
doing," Rosenberg said.

"It may not be obvious till you put your foot through a
floorboard," Rosenberg said, but "the consequences of
failure are pretty significant."

John Schwartz writes for The Post's National staff
specializing in science.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

--Contributed by:
Michael Merchant
Extension Urban Entomologist
Texas A&M Research and Extension Center
17360 Coit Rd
Dallas, TX 75252-6599
Ph. 972-231-5362